- Nuwara Eliya Archdeaconry
- Rev. F.L. Mirando
~ data not available ~
- Postal Address
- Church of St. John the Baptist, Moneragala
- 0572 257 838
~ data not available ~
In the high lands of of Sri Lanka's tea plantations, the descendants of the Tamils from South India who were brought by the British in the 19th century to sustain the tea industry, very often live in communities isolated from the traditional Sinhala villages of those areas. At times, this isolation has created tension in those communities, giving rise to misunderstandings and disharmony.
The community of the congregation of the church of St. John the Baptist at Koslanda is unique in this respect. In this church community which is a century old, Sinhala and Tamil people have been living in harmony not only accepting and respecting each other but also marrying from within each other's communities. The Church has provided a fertile ground for them to grow within their respective cultures, going beyond the barriers brought about by their isolation.
Today this congregation can be considered a "model community" where Sinhala people and the so called Indian Tamils live in symbiosis by eliminating xenophobia and creating xenophilia living as human beings created in the image of God the Ultimate reality.
According to records, St. Andrew’s Church, Haputale was opened for worship on Sunday 19 of September 1869 and now functions as the sister Church of the Church of the Ascension, Bandarawela.
The founder priest of the Church of the Ascension was late Rev. W.J.P Waltham, who served as the Vicar from 1909-1932. This Church had a sizeable English congregation when Sri Lanka was under British rule. Many European planters from the district were regular worshippers in Church, while the European garrison attended St. James’ Church in Diyatalawa. Services were conducted in English and Tamil when Tamil priests were appointed subsequently. The late Archbishop Rt. Rev. Rollo-Graham Campbell often visited these Churches.
The idea of building a Church in Bandarawela was mooted by Rt. Rev. R.S. Copleston, fifth Bishop of Colombo. The Rev. W.J.P. Waltham (1855-1938) who was the Vicar of St. Mark’s Church, Badulla from 1901, used to conduct Holy Communion services in the court house of Bandarawela, until 1907. He bought a two and a half acre block of land from the Government and built “Walthamstove” bungalow at his own expense. He set apart two rooms for a temporary church dedicated in 1907. In August 1908, the foundation of the Church was laid and the building was constructed by M/S Walker and Greig. Due to a lack of funds, only a part of the Church was constructed and consecrated on 29 September 1909, on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, by the fifth Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Copleston.
Rev. Waltham continued to reside in Badulla, but he conducted a service once a month in Bandarawela. Gifts of altar requisites, furniture and other necessary items were made and by 1911, the sanctuary was extended and a small vestry built. In 1931, the nave was further extended by 32 ft towards the east end. In 1936, the sanctuary and vestry were consecrated with a new altar.
On 6 January 1938, Bishop Mark Carpenter-Garnier consecrated the Lady Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a gift from Mr. Denzil Peiris, in memory of his father, Henry Joseph Peiris.
In 1952, the “Waltham Tower” was built in memory of “The Great Apostle of Uva”, Rev. W.J.P Waltham.
The church which was dedicated in July 1944, has completed the design of Diyatalawa as a leave center for men and women of the forces. After the war it is to be the Garrison Church of the Ceylon Planter’s Rifle Corp.
The need for a Church in this Hill Station was discussed sometime ago by the Bishop of Colombo, the G.O.C. Ceylon and the O.C. troops Diyatalawa. Its actual design and building are the work of the Garrison Engineer, Capt Ball. In the porch of the Church which is built in the style of an English village Church, there is a list of the donations made by many people for interior furnishings. In addition, the C.P.R.C. has offered to provide an organ as soon as one can be obtained.
The service of dedication was attended by the C-in-C., Ceylon Admiral sir Geoffrey Layton, Lt.-General H.E. de. R. Wetherall, G.O.C., Colonel Watson, Officer Commanding troops, Diyatalawa and a large congregation representing the Royal Navy and the Army, and many civilian residents from the surrounding country. The dedication was made by the Rev. W.T. Beckerson, O.B.E., Deputy Chaplain-General, assisted by the Rev. A. Campbell, R.N.V.R., the Rev. H.T. Tovey, D.A.C.G., and the Rev. J.G.W. Hendrie M.C. O.G.F. of the Scots’ Kirk, Colombo.
The normal congregation was equally representative both of the services and the local residents, particularly of the planting community. For the services the church serves the spiritual needs of the large and expanding leave center where all available types of amenities and entertainment have already been provided. For the people of the Uva Province and the C.P.R.C. volunteers, it will remain after the war as a place of worship, the need of which has been felt for a long time.